Story Behind the Song: Tansy Dances

by | May 1, 2023

My song “Tansy Dances” took me nearly a decade to write. It wasn’t because I had writer’s block – the lyrics were there and they came easily, but they were heavy. Not only did I not want to write a sad song, but the emotions I was feeling – the anger, the pain, the heartache – were just too much to put into words.

Tansy Dances

Candy Fernaux©

[Verse 1]

She had a freckled nose and served ice cream cones at the Triple Dipper
Our hometown Cinderella with one glass slipper
Dancing eyes auburn curls pulled high in a ponytail
A country girl in hand-me-downs living her fairy tale
Her castle was a blue farmhouse tucked back in the hills
Miles down a dirt road pass 3 mailboxes and 2 windmills
Heading down to Hidden Paradise she’s calling shotgun
Skinny dipping in the middle of the day making our own fun

[Chorus]

Tansy Dances until the stroke of midnight
She has no fear she’s high on life
Tansy Dances an angel from above
Away she goes teaching us how to love

[Verse 2]

Friday nights flirting with the boys cruising down Main Street
Singing Fishin’ in the Dark The Thunder Rolls and Oh Lonesome Me
Floating the river shooting tequila playing truth or dare
Ice cold Coke tab to the side heading to the county fair

[Chorus]

Tansy Dances until the stroke of midnight
She has no fear she’s high on life
Tansy Dances an angel from above
Away she goes teaching us how to love

[Verse 3]

The belle of the ball her card full at every barn dance
Two stepping always pinching the boys in Wrangler pants
A teasing smile her magic wand she cast many a spell
Chasing fireflies and shooting stars catching her when she fell

[Chorus]

Tansy Dances until the stroke of midnight
She has no fear she’s high on life
Tansy Dances an angel from above
Away she goes teaching us how to love

 

The Story Behind the Song

Tansy and I met in grade school at our annual country school track meet in the Sandhills of Nebraska. Our families both lived in the country, Tansy south of town towards the Calamus River, and our family farm was north east of our little hometown of Ainsworth. Back then, there were small one or two room country schools for K-8 students, so the districts would gather a few times a year for events like spelling bees and track meets.

Now and then we’d see each other and have play dates when our dad’s got together to shoot the breeze about cattle or the price of corn. We grew up in the era of pen pals and handwritten letters, so that’s how we kept in touch. Cell phones weren’t a thing back then, even for our parents. (Yes, I am aging myself!)

We pretty quickly became thick as thieves. Her friendship meant the world to me, she meant the world to me. In our early teens, Tansy went to the doctor for intense leg pain and soon discovered that she had cancer. We were kids, and we didn’t really even know the magnitude of her health issues, but everyone knew it was serious. Soon into treatment, her body weakened – hair began to fall out and she had to use crutches to get around. Thankfully, Tansy went into remission, was able to enjoy a normal life for her junior and senior year of high school aside from having a limp. We were both on the cheer squad and part of FBLA, I played sax in the band, she sang in the choir. And rarely, did we go a weekend without each other. Oh the memories we made when we were old enough to drive and both had a curfew of midnight. You could always find us “dragging Main” with the boys and cruising country roads hunting coons or cow tipping.

 

Tansy and Candy

Tansy and Candy in Cancun, Mexico

Tansy

My sweet Tansy

 We graduated and went off to college in opposite directions but we came home to work summer jobs, hung out swimming in the Niobrara River, and went country dancing anywhere a band was playing locally- the Norden Dance Hall being our favorite! Tansy loved country music, cowboys, and tequila – which, of course, we only discovered when we were old enough to drink! But her life was once again interrupted in college when cancer reared its ugly head again and this time, they amputated her leg above her knee. She had a prosthetic leg in no time and she kept dancing, even though she’d lose her balance and take her dance partner to the floor with her every time. She owned those moments – never embarrassed, always confident, laughing every time just to get up, lose her balance and fall again.

For Tansy, cancer was just one part of her life; she had learned to live with it and had accepted the new role it had in her life. It was her plight but she had the best attitude, always lifting everyone up around her, never focused on her own struggles. She was a light and truly an angel on earth, and at age 32, our world darkened with a terminal diagnosis. Within four short months, on my birthday, lost her battle with Leukemia.

 

Why I Wrote Tansy Dances

The last time I saw her in the hospital, playing my guitar and singing our favorite country songs, Tansy made me promise her three things:

  1. I would speak AND sing/play Amazing Grace at her celebration of life
  2. Check on her parents after she was gone
  3. Get the music in my heart out for the world to hear

When the inspiration finally hit and I sat down to write her story, the words and rhymes tumbled effortlessly onto the paper. “Tansy Dances” practically wrote itself, and I know my sweet friend was there, creating alongside me. It’s my uplifting tribute to my childhood friend, sharing her carefree spirit, country girl upbringing, and beautiful smile, backed by strength and determination.

Writing Tansy Dances

And the writing process begins…

What I hope others feel when they listen to her song

The pain of losing someone we love may lessen with time, but we don’t ever really get over it. I remember watching an interview about Miranda and Blake’s song they co-write “Over You” about his brother who died tragically. Blake asked his dad when he would ever get over losing his brother, to which his dad replied, “The hurt will lessen with time, but I don’t think we will ever get over losing him.” That comment hit me in the gut and has stuck with me ever since. We are never “ready” to say goodbye, especially to those who are so young. Knowing that we were going to lose Tansy didn’t make it any easier to say goodbye when she finally danced off to heaven to get her new leg and renewed body. (Hence my lyrics “our hometown Cinderella with just one glass slipper.”)

 Tansy Dances is the only song I have released that I wrote by myself. I am so proud and grateful for the inspiration and the words from God to write her song. I will never forget the day at the studio when we laid down the music tracks. I stepped into the sound booth to sing the vocals and stood with my headphones on and the tears started to fall. I couldn’t stop them. I couldn’t speak. I could not sing. I wept for my friend, for her hard life, for the void all of us felt with her being gone. I’m still not “over it.” I went home that evening and after calling a close friend/classmate of Tansy’s, I realized that it was the very day, 13 years ago, that she called me to tell me she had 4-6 months to live.

It is my hope that those of you who have lost sisters, mothers, fathers, brothers, or children to cancer, find peace and comfort in remembering your loved ones for who they were, not the battle they fought here on earth. My other wish is that “Tansy Dances” inspires you to keep dancing, no matter what losses you experience, obstacles you face, or twists and turns that life throws your way.

I’ve created some precious things remembrance of Tansy; you can check out my entire Tansy Dances collection in the Candy Shop.